We’ve been taking lots of behind the scenes photos, but with the limited time we have and the very slow internet, uploading them to the blog is taking far too much time. We’ve been uploading them all to our Facebook page under Midway Journey.
Here are the direct links to the photos – these should be accessible even if you are not on Facebook.
Day 1 – Victoria
Day 2 – Jan
Day 3 – Jan
In this poetic offering, a plastic filled bird carcass becomes a symbol for awakening.
Filmed and edited by Jan Vozenilek
Music by Christen Lien
Seabird photography calls for telephoto lenses, camouflage clothing, and stealth movements, right?
Well, not on Midway Atoll. On their second day on the island, Chris Jordan, Jan Vozenilek and the rest of the Midway Journey team are adopted as brothers and sisters by the charismatic albatrosses of Midway. These magnificent creatures inhabit the vast and solitary expanses of the North Pacific. A world of broad horizons, trade winds, passing storm clouds, and hundreds of shades of blue. A space of primeval purity that has changed little for millions of years.
Unchallenged by predators, these masters of the skies are intrigued by the proximity of unfamiliar two-legged creatures. Thus, the examiners become the examined, and the photographers have their lenses scrutinized and pecked by birds so fearless, and open to the possibilities, that instantly awaken the child inside of us.
Video by: Jan Vozenilek
Music by: Christen Lien
Written by: Manuel Maqueda
Chris has released and posted on his website a selection of his photographs under the title “Message from the Gyre”.
In Chris’ words:
These photographs of albatross chicks were made just a few weeks ago on Midway Atoll, a tiny stretch of sand and coral near the middle of the North Pacific. The nesting babies are fed bellies-full of plastic by their parents, who soar out over the vast polluted ocean collecting what looks to them like food to bring back to their young. On this diet of human trash, every year tens of thousands of albatross chicks die on Midway from starvation, toxicity, and choking.
To document this phenomenon as faithfully as possible, not a single piece of plastic in any of these photographs was moved, placed, manipulated, arranged, or altered in any way. These images depict the actual stomach contents of baby birds in one of the world’s most remote marine sanctuaries, more than 2000 miles from the nearest continent.
More details on Chris’ photography ethic can be found here.
The full selection of photographs released to date can be viewed here.
A large percentage of the permanent residents of Midway are Thai workers, hired by a company called Chugach which provides many services to the island, from maintenance, to food and lodging.
Kittipong Janthasang is a Bangkok native who has lived on Midway for three years. We can find him pulling invasive weeds from the fields and also bartending at the island’s only pub during its brief hours of operation. Kittipong’s passion, however, is wildlife photography. In his spare time, he goes out with his camera and patiently and delicately captures intimate portraits of the natural beauty of Midway. Amazing photos that, until now, were confined to his laptop, and shared only with his friends on the island. It has been an honor for us at Midway Journey to discover the excellent body of photographic work by Kittipong, and to have the opportunity to post a selection of his images online for the first time, in the form of this slide show.
Kittipong’s photographic work conveys a contagious, heartfelt reverence for nature, and offers the viewer a rare and invaluable look into the immense natural wealth of Midway.
Photography by Kittipong Janthasang. Slide Show edited by Jan Vozenilek. Music by Christen Lien.
Those interested in Kittipong’s photography can contact him at kittipong-p at hotmail dot com.
I thought I’d check in at the halfway point of our trip. First of all, greetings! I wish I could snap my fingers and you would all appear here with us.
In terms of my photographic work so far, my primary feeling is one of anxious urgency. What I am seeing through my viewfinder is amazing—everything I had hoped for, and much more. The albatross carcasses are astonishingly beautiful and visually complex, each one offering a slightly different view into the intricate architecture of these magnificent creatures. The pieces of plastic in their body cavities—cigarette lighters, bottle caps, pens, toothbrushes, and lots of other brightly colored plastic chunks, juxtapose like colors in a painting against the rich palettes of neutral tones in the birds’ decaying feathers and bones. Aesthetically, I hope that the images I am capturing will carry the same kind of uncomfortable desolate beauty that my other work has explored.
The part that makes me anxious is that I have no idea what is actually being recorded on my memory cards. I feel clumsy working with my new digital camera system. My hands lack fluency with the knobs and buttons; the menus don’t come naturally to my thought process; and I don’t know if I am getting the fine focus and the exposures correct. What I do know is that this equipment will produce outrageously high quality images if I get the settings right. Fingers crossed!
A couple of days ago I discovered a huge pile of several thousand albatross carcasses sequestered in a remote meadow. We figured they must be all the birds that had died around the living quarters, moved to a place where they can decompose naturally, away from the island village. The pile is a couple of feet deep and about twenty feet square, with thousands upon thousands of wings, skulls, rib cages, feathers, and bones, all mixed and permeated with a shocking amount of plastic junk.
It is a horrific and moving sight, evocative of images of mass graves from wars, more visually intense than anything I had expected to find here. I devoted a whole day to photographing the pile, and plan to return several times more. In terms of experiencing the depth of the tragedy we came here to witness, this is the heart of darkness of our journey. I feel overwhelmed and numbed by it, and I also sense that if there is any kind of breakthrough in our process to be attained on this trip, this pile represents the portal through which we must pass.
This Monday, September 21st, marks the autumnal equinox, a middle place in our yearly circuit around the sun, halfway between the days of longest darkness and longest light. On that day, at noon Midway time (four hours earlier than Pacific time), our team will return to the pile. Our shared intention is to connect as deeply as we can with the profound story that these birds have to tell. Please remember us on that day, and hold our process in your thoughts, as we will hold you in ours.
The amount of plastic objects that we are finding inside of the albatross carcasses that cover Midway Island is so shocking that it might be hard to believe.
As soon as we landed on the island, we all agreed to adhere to a strict work ethic that is summarized in these three rules:
- No plastic added. We never add any additional plastic to any images or compositions. What you’ll see it what was there.
- No rearranging. The plastic contents of the rib cages are not rearranged in any way.
- OK to remove. We allow ourselves to occasionally remove from the frame a few objects that might obstruct the view, such as twigs, feathers, grass leaves, or pieces of plastic from the top layer.
Chris Jordan explains these rules in more detail in the following video.